A private, auspicious trip to Mars and back

I don’t believe in Astrology but 5th January 2018 is a particularly auspicious and propitious date for a quick jaunt to Mars and back. And billionaire Denis Tito plans to take advantage of the advantageous alignment of Mars and Earth to make the first manned trip to Mars and back. It would be a “free-return” trajectory so the couple making the trip would only fly around Mars and return to a landing on Earth 501 days after they left.

InspirationMars: The mission’s target launch date is Jan. 5, 2018. This exceptionally quick, free-return orbit opportunity occurs twice every 15 years. After 2018, the next opportunity won’t occur again until 2031. The mission will provide a platform for unprecedented science, engineering and education opportunities, using state-of-the-art technologies derived from NASA and the International Space Station. It will be financed primarily through philanthropic donations, with some potential support from government sources.

The closest distance between Mars and Earth varies by almost a factor of two over an 18 year period. Note that 1 AU (Astronomical Unit) is the average distance between the Sun and the Earth (about 150 million kilometers). NASA

Inspiration Mars Press Release: 

Dennis Tito, founder and chairman of the Inspiration Mars Foundation, testified today before the House Science Subcommittee on Space during a hearing on commercial space. Tito shared the results of a 90-day study undertaken by Inspiration Mars and developed through collaborative efforts with
NASA centers and industry partners to define a baseline architecture for a human mission to Mars. The
Foundation proposes to send a spacecraft in late 2017 or early 2018 bearing two astronauts, a man and
woman, to the far side of Mars and return them to Earth. ….. Inspiration Mars’ Architecture Study Report describes the proposed mission architecture to enable the voyage of 314 million miles in 501 days, which requires collaboration through a public-private partnership with NASA. The plan calls for two launches to keep crew and cargo separate, an inherent safety feature to the mission architecture. First, the SLS will lift off from Kennedy Space Center with a four-part payload to place cargo into Earth’s orbit, consisting of: an SLS upper-stage rocket to propel spacecraft from Earth’s orbit to Mars; a service module containing electrical power, propulsion and communication systems; a Cygnus-derived habitat module where the astronauts will live for 501 days; and an Earth Reentry Pod derived from Orion. The second launch will take the crew into orbit aboard a commercial transportation vehicle (selected from competing designs under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program). From there, the crew and Inspiration Mars vehicle stack will rendezvous in orbit using docking procedures perfected by more than 130 trips to the International Space Station. ….

Tito noted there is a window for a mission by a different trajectory, a mission longer by 88 days that could be flown in 2021. Tito stated, “Given Russia’s clear recognition of the value and prestige of accomplishments in human space exploration, and their long-time interest in exploring Mars, my personal belief is that in all likelihood the Energia super-heavy rocket revival announcement signals Russian intent to fly this mission in 2021. Their heavy lift rocket, along with their other designs for modules and the Soyuz, can fly this mission with modest upgrades to their systems. China is also developing suitable capabilities and must surely be contemplating this opportunity to be first to Mars. It is our civic duty to bring this to the attention of the executive and legislative government branches. The 2010 NASA authorization has given America the opportunity to be first to Mars, and we believe it should be taken by launching the mission to Mars in 2017.”

Fast Free return trajectories between Earth and Mars occur twice every 15 years:

Low energy Free Returns with TOFS around 3 years (or less) are plentiful and occur every synodic period. Higher energy Free Returns with TOFS around 2 years are also plentiful and occur synodically. Of particular interest are fast Free Returns which occur in 2015 and 2017 and have the shortest TOF of about 1.4 years. These trajectories may provide a timely opportunity for the first human mission to Mars.

File:Inspiration Mars trajectory.svg

Inspiration Mars trajectory: Wikimedia

“Practical schemes for sending humans to Mars have been on the drawing boards for more than 60 years. Pioneering space engineer Wernher von Braun, author of the 1952 book “Project Mars,” proposed Mars flyby flights using Apollo lunar spacecraft in the 1960s.” space.com


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One Response to “A private, auspicious trip to Mars and back”

  1. Political statues in India cost more than the Mars Orbiter Mission | The k2p blog Says:

    […] If the MOM succeeds in its main objectives, there is even a case for using the window that is coming in 2018 to attempt a manned trip around Mars and back in 510 days. […]

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